alcohol, art, sobriety and escape

the following was a comment on my blog post alcohol and art. i really enjoyed the insights, and with the commenter’s (lew’s) permission, i am sharing the gift of his reflections here.

it’s hard to know what’s real anymore. on the one hand i know that alcohol hinders me, certainly in my social life, but in my writing too. on the other hand, i feel like i’ve learnt a lot over the course of our coupling, and i continue to learn things. it is mostly about myself, but to know about others, it helps to know of yourself. and this has certainly helped my writing in a profound way. but where it has helped my writing in an important way, it has hindered it structurally. in the way that a tidy room can make for a tidy mind, a tidy mind can make for a tidy novel. and a mind, and often a room, is rarely tidy under the extreme conditions of alcoholic relapse. of two novels i’ve completed (unpublished as of yet), one was written in abstinence immediately upon discharge from hospital, and one was written very much in the middle of relapse. the first is very readable, i’m informed, and it seems to have a quality that some people need in a book, the second is not as readable.

without art, i could see abstinence and sobriety as a rich necessity to the comfort of my life, yes. but i am not without art, and this allows for a creative mind. alcoholism is a mind game, and, of course, an addiction. an artist makes a myth as much as a romantic historian, it is embedded somehow. but then perhaps the answer is in this mind game of a problem. perhaps i need to find a creative way to divorce drink.

i should add that i’ve made sweeping generalisations here that i am not qualified to make. and this is only part of my addiction. a part that nevertheless convolutes and contorts my attachment to escapism. for that is what it truly boils down to. escapism. even for an artist whose concern is getting at the truth, and probably uncovering horrors along the way, the work is escapism. perhaps one of the connections between artists and alcohol, is the need to escape. of course, all of us need to escape, but there is a depth achieved in art where we can lose ourselves (perhaps it is the same for anyone who works hard and deeply cares about what they do, creativity exists in most professions). and then to drink can be seen as to escape from escape, but i don’t feel it is. it is a continuation.

there is a contradiction between this and my first comment, but i’ve recognised over the course of this comment that i lied in the first (and using the word ‘truth’ too, but that’s another topic) – to myself as much as anyone. i never drink to wind down. quite the opposite. i drink to wind-up. after writing, i feel it is alright to drink. especially if i’ve had a good session. in fact, it is pretty much the only time i feel it is alright to drink.

i shall stop now, i’ve meandered a little. this is the first day i’ve gone without a drink in while. i can’t visualise a period of abstinence, there is too much ahead in the next two months. but i shall try to break from it for a day or two. lock myself away and ignore the knocking at the door or the phone calls. perhaps october.

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